Ethiopia is growing in profile as a travel destination and I found out why when I travelled there in March this year.
The country is large (over 1 million square kilometres) and the second most populous country on the African continent with approximately 100 million people, living a mainly a peaceful, rural existence. The country is hugely diverse, offering a range of travel options, attraction and activities.
The north of the country is dominated by the Rift Valley and spectacular, high altitude plateaus, sheer cliff drop offs, dramatic limestone mountains and extensive valleys. In the west, descending down to the Danikil Depression (below sea level) and in the east – where local nomads harvest salt from the dry lakes and use camel trains to take the salt to market.
The northern area is arid and populated by Orthodox Christians. Religion is serious in Ethiopia and it dominates the lives of most ordinary people with regular, colourful ceremonies and celebrations. A prime reason to visit is to see the incredible rock hewn functioning churches scattered throughout the mountains around Gheralta and Lalibela. Some of them require serious climbing skills and a head for heights and others are reachable by vehicle. Also in the north is the Simien Mountains National Park – home to the impressive Gelada monkeys, Walia ibex and a small population of Ethiopian wolves.
Probably the best place to see the Ethiopian wolves is in the Bale Mountains National Park towards the south. This is the world’s rarest canid – 8 times more endangered than the giant panda of China.Ethiopia is also well known for its endemic birds and there is no better way to see the country than trekking.
Ethiopia has a cuisine all of its own – making use of a local seed called tef, made into a flat bread. Lentils, beans, vegetables lamb and beef dominate Ethopian meals. And of course, Ethiopia is the original home of coffee where it grows wild so a local coffee preparation ceremony is a must.
Local road networks and internal scheduled flights are excellent. Those with healthy budgets will find that the steep and often inaccessible terrain make touring by helicopter the ultimate way to see Ethiopia.
There are many natural and wildlife areas in Ethiopia that are in the process of being developed and should be marked for exploring in the future. I can’t wait to get back to see some of these places that are rarely visited by travellers.
Ethiopian Airlines (one of Africa’s premier airlines with the newest fleet of aircraft) arrives into the capital, Addis Ababa, from a range of destinations in Europe.
Ethiopia really is the ultimate African safari adventure into the unknown and an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.